Military slang

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View across an open battlefield with what appears to be a Royal Flying Corps Maurice Farman biplane having just dropped a bomb. There is an explosion of earth and black smoke in the right foreground, the black smoke bomb described in military slang as a Black Maria. The Belgian village of Ploegsteert is visible on the horizon, with a church spire towards the middle and a line of trees behind.

Military slang is an array of colloquial terminology used commonly by military personnel, including slang which is unique to or originates with the armed forces. In English-speaking countries, it often takes the form of abbreviations/acronyms or derivations of the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, or otherwise incorporates aspects of formal military terms and concepts. Military slang is often used to reinforce or reflect (usually friendly and humorous) interservice rivalries.

Acronym slang in US Military[edit]

A number of military slang terms are acronyms. Rick Atkinson ascribes the origin of SNAFU, FUBAR, and a bevy of other terms to cynical GIs ridiculing the United States Army's penchant for acronyms.[1]


BOHICA stands for bend over, here it comes again. It is an item of acronym slang which grew to regular use amongst the United States armed forces during the Vietnam War.[2][3] It is used colloquially to indicate that an adverse situation is about to repeat itself, and that acquiescence is the wisest course of action. It is commonly understood as a reference to being sodomized. An alternative etymology relates the expression to the days of sail and avoiding being struck by the boom, which would swing around the mast due to shifts in wind or the vessel's course. Although it originated in the United States military forces, and is still commonly used by United States Air Force fighter crew chiefs and armament crews, its usage has spread to civilian environments, used to describe unavoidable, unpleasant situations that have inconvenienced someone before and are about to yet again.


FIGMO describes a person, especially one who has a short remaining time on station, who has a lax attitude toward their work. The acronym stands for 'Fuck it, I've got my orders', or 'Finally I Got My Orders'. During the Korean War, several airplanes were painted with nose art quoting a variation of FIGMO, "FUJIGMO", which stands for "Fuck yoU Jack, I've Got My Orders". The set of orders implied are transfer or release orders, and once you have those it doesn't matter much what your current commanding officer thinks of you any longer.


Not to be confused with Foobar.
"FUBAR" redirects here. For other uses, see FUBAR (disambiguation).

FUBAR stands for fucked up beyond all recognition/repair/reason, also Fouled-Up Beyond All Repair. Like SNAFU and SUSFU, it dates from World War II. The Oxford English Dictionary lists Yank, the Army Weekly magazine (1944, 7 Jan. p. 8) as its earliest citation: "The FUBAR squadron. ? FUBAR? It means 'Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition."[4]


FUBAR BUNDY is an ambulance term meaning fucked up beyond all recognition but unfortunately not dead yet or Fouled-Up.[citation needed]


JANFU stands for joint army-navy fuck up.[5]


SNAFU stands for the sarcastic expression situation normal: all fucked up, or ...Fouled-Up. It is a well-known example of military acronym slang, though it is sometimes bowdlerized to all fouled up or similar.[6] It means the situation is bad, but that is a normal state of affairs.

The acronym is believed to have originated in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. However, attribution to the American military is not universally accepted. It has also been attributed to the British.[7] Most reference works, including the Random House Unabridged Dictionary and Oxford English Dictionary, supply an origin date of 1940–1944, generally attributing it to the US military.[8]

Time magazine used the term in their June 16, 1942 issue: "Last week U.S. citizens knew that gasoline rationing and rubber requisitioning were snafu."[8] It was featured in the "Private Snafu" series of instructional short films produced for military personnel by Warner Brothers beginning in 1943. Frederick Elkin noted in 1946 that there "are a few acceptable substitutes such as 'screw up' or 'mess up,' but these do not have the emphasis value of the obscene equivalent." He considered the expression SNAFU to be "a caricature of Army direction. The soldier resignedly accepts his own less responsible position and expresses his cynicism at the inefficiency of Army authority." He also noted that "the coming into general civilian use."[9]

In modern usage, snafu is sometimes used as an interjection, though it is mostly now used as a noun. Snafu also sometimes refers to a bad situation, mistake, or cause of trouble. It is more commonly used in modern vernacular to describe running into an error or problem that is large and unexpected. For example, in 2005, The New York Times published an article titled "Hospital Staff Cutback Blamed for Test Result Snafu".[10]

SUSFU (situation unchanged: still fucked up) is a variant of SNAFU. SNAFU and SUSFU were first recorded in American Notes and Queries in their September 1941 issue.[8]


oscar mike means OM (on the move)


TARFU stands for Things are really fucked up. The phrase appears in U.S. Army animated shorts Three Brothers and Private Snafu Presents Seaman Tarfu In The Navy (both directed by Friz Freleng), feature the characters Private Snafu, Private Fubar, and Seaman Tarfu.[11][12] "Tar" is slang for a sailor or Seaman; hence Seaman Tarfu.


Military brat, (Army) brat etc. refers to the child of a serving officer/soldier. Mainly heard referring to U.S. military children.[13] Refers to the child of someone in that branch of the service.[14]

ROAD, meaning retired on active duty, refers to active duty military personnel who have already earned a 20-year retirement or actually have received retirement orders and perform the minimum work they are able to do without being disciplined. It may also be used to refer to an individual who has not yet earned a retirement, but manages to stay on active duty while accomplishing very little.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Atkinson, Rick (2007). The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943–1944. The Liberation Trilogy. Henry Holt. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8050-6289-2. 
  2. ^ Crawford, Samuel C. (2005). "Glossary". Brownwater III. Xlibris Corporation. p. 419. ISBN 978-1-59926-451-6. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Elvin, Mike (2006). Financial Risk Taking: An Introduction to the Psychology of Trading and Behavioural Finance. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-02072-2. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "fubar, adj.". Oxford English Dictionary (third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Pres. 2005. 
  5. ^ "What does JANFU mean? JANFU Definition. Meaning of JANFU.". Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Neary, Lynn. "Fifty Years of 'The Cat in the Hat'". NPR. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 'Situation Normal All...All Fouled Up,' as the first SNAFU animated cartoon put it 
  7. ^ Rawson, Hugh (1995). Rawson's Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk: Being a Compilation of Linguistic Fig Leaves and Verbal Flourishes for Artful Users of the English Language. New York: Crown. ISBN 978-0-517-70201-7. 
  8. ^ a b c Burchfield, R.W., ed. (1986). A Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary. Volume IV Se-Z. Oxford: Clarendon. ISBN 978-0-19-861115-8. 
  9. ^ Elkin, Frederick (March 1946), "The Soldier's Language", American Journal of Sociology (The University of Chicago Press) 51 (5 Human Behavior in Military Society): 414–422, doi:10.1086/219852, JSTOR 2771105 
  10. ^ Santora, Marc (May 19, 2005). "Hospital Staff Cutback Blamed for Test Result Snafu". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Private Snafu – Three Brothers (1944)". Internet Archive. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  12. ^ Pietro Shakarian. "Situation Normal All Fucked Up:A History of Private Snafu". Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  13. ^ Mewes, Allison (2011) Intro To Army Life: A Handbook For Spouses And Significant Others Entering The Army.
  14. ^ " News Article: Military Brats Are a Special Breed". Retrieved 21 January 2015. 

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